I think it’s kind of amazing that Todd Phillips is now the guy behind the biggest comedy franchise of all time.
Not because I don’t think he’s capable of it, but more because of the Todd Phillips I originally met many years ago at this point. The Phillips I got to know at first was so far outside the mainstream that even imagining him working on a studio comedy seemed unlikely.
What I find really impressive about the way he’s managed his career is how he’s kept his voice intact while working on bigger and bigger films. When I saw “Hated: GG Allin & The Murder Junkies,” a deranged documentary about a deranged punk performer, I would have never guessed that director would go on to create a genuine box-office juggernaut. “Frat House,” same thing. I think of the early work by him and by Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko, guys who I always think of as part of that same initial creative moment, and they were all so far out that it really seems amazing to me.
When I went to Las Vegas to talk to the people behind “The Hangover Part III,” one of the first conversations I had was with Phillips. I’ve heard other reporters describe him as a difficult interview, and I’ve seen him steamroll people whose work he had a problem with. He does not filter out his real feelings or his real reactions, and he does not soft-pedal anything he feels strongly about. Personally, I like that about him, and it makes for a real conversation. I wish more people were as upfront about their real opinion in this industry.
In this business, one of the most enviable positions to be in is after you’ve had a monster hit, when you have what is colloquially called “fuck you money,” because you can pretty much do whatever you want. Phillips has three times that much now, and for that reason, I’m excited to see what he does over the next two or three or even five movies, as we see who he really wants to be as a filmmaker.
“The Hangover Part III” opens Friday, May 24th.